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Re: [greggordon] Jesus’ 50 Theses To The Modern Church
gregordon: Hi

Yesterday was a significant anniversary of the posting of Luthor's 95 subjects for debate, upon the Church door at Wittenburgh. In the spirit of debate I accept the challenge you have set by posting your 50 tenets.

So, a good post, with much to commend it. Except . . . . .

Jesus commands all people to repent of their own ways and accept His ways (Matthew 4:17; Luke 6:46; 1 Peter 2:21).

I would debate thesis #1 for amendment to: "Jesus commends . . .", instead of "Jesus commands . . .".

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
"Repent" as used by Jesus in Matt. 4:17 is not necessarily a command with a threat of sanction demanding capitulation and compliance from those sinners under threat. In fact it is wise advice and an invitation to receive forgiveness and renewal of life, obtainable as a gift from God, repentance being the turn around starting point in any new relationship with God, restoring human dignity, healing the rift between us and setting us on the path to glory.

"Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?
Luke 6:46 is clearly addressed to erstwhile or prospective disciples who have ignored or will ignore his teaching, yet falsely or mistakenly claim allegiance to him. It is less a 'command' than a question aimed at disturbing their complacency in regard to their disobedience to his teaching. We are called to be of one mind with Christ. That is not possible if we ignore or reject his teaching.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Pet. 2:21 Is not issuing a 'command'. It is reminding established disciples of their duty and obligation in view of Christ's sacrifice on their behalf. It is intended to elicit a positive response out of gratitude, not force compliance by a threat.

In view of the fact that Jesus came not to condemn but to save the world, Jn. 3:17, the word 'command' when associated with repentance and the ministry and message of Jesus Christ is inappropriate and insupportable using the reference texts you have cited. Otherwise, thesis #1 is OK.

Some caveats are necessary in the following theses also I think.

#5. As Christians we are not to be private about our faith but evangels wherever we go, through word and also good works in the name of God. (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14).

Though enjoined not to hide our light under a bushel bucket, we are also required to be circumspect, sensitive and sympathetic to others and their situation. Preaching reform to others while yet remaining unreformed oneself is hypocritical and to be avoided. Preaching judgmental opinions on the morals or ethics of others while expecting God to overlook our own, (perhaps different), shortcomings is not 'being an evangelist'. Being an evangelist is behaving and relating to others exactly as Jesus did with exactly the same motives.

#16. Jesus teaches us to look at our own sins and problems first. We must judge ourselves first so that we can help others after. (Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

That is the Christlike way of doing things. If we cannot get this right, (at least in matters of compassion and humility), we should forget about evangelism.

#17. Jesus teaches us to not give that which is holy to those who will disregard it. Jesus exemplified this being silent at times before his accusers. (Matthew 7:6; 1 Peter 2:21-23)

Discretion and boldness in seizing opportunity to preach the word, to convince, rebuke, and exhort, are gifts of God which come from experience and maturity. The right time to be bold or when to be discrete are issues that can only be rightly decided with the Holy Spirit as our guide.

#20. Jesus calls us to follow in the narrow way that leads to eternal life. And also states that the majority in the world are on the broad way to hell. (Matthew 7:13-14; Matthew 13:40-43).

Regarding the immanence of his death, Jesus also states this: Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Jn. 12:31-32. (By which He obviously meant both all men and all women, not just some.) Certainly the 'narrow way' still exists since the crucifixion event, and it is our responsibility as disciples to tread it, just as He did, but not in order to obtain salvation or to obtain forgiveness). Since the crucifixion, God is now reconciled with sinners. They just don't know it unless we convey 'The Word' of it to them.

God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us, (i.e. those of us who know this), the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:19.

(Not the word of condemnation or warning of a divine threat of eternal damnation, while they continue on 'the broad road to hell'). We have the word of RECONCILIATION committed unto us, to tell others of what God has done for them. Their RESPONSE to that message will either alter or confirm their spiritual destination.


#21. Those who are false prophets will be mostly those who look like true believers but are inwardly false and sons of Judas. (Matthew 7:15-17).

Matt. 7:15-17 does not support any theory that false prophets and liars are 'sons of Judas'. The thesis needs to be shortened and the reference to Judas deleted as being unsupported by scripture.


#34. We are to honour marriage only between a man and a women. (Matthew 19:5-6).

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for ANY cause?" "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." Matt. 19:3-9.

There is no rejoinder in this text to 'honour marriage' as an institution, (particularly the way it was practiced in the Jewish society of Jesus time on earth). The point that Jesus was making was in opposition to the Pharisaic notion that ANY MAN could divorce his wife for ANY REASON. i.e that men had absolute authority over their wife and could dispose of them just however they pleased.

Jesus objection had no connection with the natural physical difference between the sexes in 'marriage', but on grounds of injustice, abuse of authority and 'accommodation to the hardness of heart OF MEN' represented by the Law of Moses in connection with the treatment of women within marriage in 1st Century Jewish society.

Promiscuity within a marital relationship, (indeed any partnership relationship), has however always been regarded as a reason for ending the relationship. (Provided, in Jesus time, you were a MAN. Women could not divorce MEN for promiscuity within marriage, or if they managed it, only with great difficulty, in a court run by MEN and with a requirement for overwhelming, irrefutable evidence). Hypocritical or what? (Women were not even allowed to offer testimony in court as witnesses, let alone bring a case against a man, on their own behalf.

There is however, it has to be said, no biblical example of or reference to 'marriage' as a legal term ever being applied to a male/male or female/female relationship. In scripture the word has always exclusively described a union between male and female partners.

That however is a question of semantics, not a question of theology or ethics.

I think if monogamous male/male or female/female relationships are to be held acceptable, tolerated or even celebrated in a freedom loving society, (such as 'The Kingdom of God'), it is the responsibility of Christians to recognize that fidelity in any relationship, is vastly preferable to promiscuity. Christ did not come to earth to impose Marriage Regulation or to frame LAWS and STATUTES forbidding same sex relationships. In fact there is no Biblical record whatever of Jesus saying a single word on the subject of 'same sex relationships'. It was THAT UNIMPORTANT to him and his overall message to the human race.


#35. Jesus teaches that a man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. ‘whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.’ (Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18)

"It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matt 5:31-32

It was the accepted practice in the time of Jesus for MEN to divorce their wives FOR ANY REASON or in fact no real reason at all. These divorced ex-wives would be rendered destitute and would often need to resort to prostitution for mere survival. It is this injustice that the teaching of Jesus is primarily aimed at. In a time of absolute patriarchy where wives were OWNED as PROPERTY and disposed of as property, and women had no rights or recognition within society, this ruling made sense and addressed a serious issue. Thus reducing unjust divorce of women by men. (Vulnerable and powerless women being made destitute at the mere whim of cruel, irresponsible husbands, with the actual support of 'The Law' or 'Sharia', is a serious injustice in any age). In an age and a society where there is supposed to be freedom and equality between the sexes it is clearly less relevant. There is another reason this verse is so misunderstood by the modern mind. At the time this was said by Jesus it was commonly held that if by your actions you caused someone else to sin, you bore the guilt for THEIR sinful action. If for instance you sued somebody who owed you and took their clothing to cover their debt, rendering them naked, YOU were then held responsible for their nakedness. Matt. 5:40. Thus divorcing a wife without cause, (i.e apart from unchastity), made the HUSBAND sinful because he had CAUSED her to commit adultery by rendering her DESTITUTE.

Jesus was actually surprisingly liberal, (unlike his contemporaries), in associating with women in serial marriages or socially unacceptable professions. See Jn. 4:1-30. Luke 7:36-50. Matt. 21:31. John 8:3-11.

"The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.
"Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery
. Luke 16:16-18.

Many judgmental believers seem to forget to include verse 16 of Luke 16:16-18, when teaching on the sinfulness of marrying a divorcee. It does not fit with their wish to retain Law Keeping as essentially the way salvation is obtained. i.e how we obtain and remain in God's grace.

When verse 16 is included however it becomes clear that Jesus is saying there is a clear historical line of demarcation in TIME between 'living under the curse of The Law' and 'Living under God's Grace in The Kingdom of God'. The curse of living under 'The Law and The Prophets', ended with the coming of John The Baptist, (this, change of circumstance, according to Jesus Christ's teaching, applies to everyone), and a new era then opened up in which, though we may be in many respects still 'sinners' strictly speaking according to The Law, we are nonetheless 'dragged violently (against our will), into The Kingdom of God' by the vicarious, sacrificial death of Christ, (which happened at Calvary). Nevertheless, unless we respond positively to God's Grace by forgiving others, we are still subject to the penalties of The Law. Matt. 18:21-25.

His Atonement has altered the relationship between God and sinful humankind. No one can avoid God being reconciled with THEM because 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself' 2 Cor. 5:19. That was what the cross was all about. God being reconciled to human kind. What remains is for human beings to accept that 'reconciliation' and return it in kind, out of gratitude, not compulsion.

HOWEVER, the law has by no means been cancelled or set aside as 'redundant' or 'defunct'. It is still the standard of perfect behaviour, if you wish to risk presenting yourself to a Holy God, as claiming to have been absolutely obedient to it all your life long.

I would not however advise trying to impress God with the fact that YOU have never been guilty of marrying a divorcee or are convinced that you have kept every other statute of The Law. As soon as you try that God will confront YOU with all the sins against The Law that you HAVE ignorantly, deliberately or unknowingly committed.

Far better, that you should accept the fact that, like everyone else, (including remarried divorcees), you do not deserve to enter 'The Kingdom of God'. You and everyone else is there only by the gracious permission of God and his merciful remission of your sins. Just make the best of THAT and start cutting others some slack.

#44. Our Lord commands all true disciples to remember the Lord’s Supper in the fear of God. Not as a sacrament that is given to liars, thieves, those who practice sin, half-hearted professors of religion, or any of the like. (Matthew 26:26-27; 1 Corinthians 11:26-29).

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt. 26:26-27.

Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Cor. 11:26-29.

"Our Lord Commands". : Not in the text you have cited He doesn't.

It could just as rightly be viewed as a REQUEST for the disciples to "Take, eat". Or an INVITATION, more like to PARTICIPATE. Not necessarily a COMMAND to be obeyed, with possible sanction if one does not.

Remember the context in which this happened: a fellowship meal together, a farewell supper. Not as a 'right of admission into the ranks of the righteous' or a 'proof of one's worthiness to attend the event'.

St Paul rightly upbraided the Corinthian Church for the abuses they committed against the sanctity of 'the fellowship meal' wherein the Lord's death was commemorated until His coming again. Their abuses amounted to selfishness and gluttony, the exclusion of others thought to be inferior and self satisfied complacency. None of these traits are welcome at The Lord's Table.

However, how would YOU propose to 'weed out' the offenders? What kind of church would that create, assuming you were successful in 'weeding out', liars, thieves, sinners, half-hearted professors of religion, or any of the like?

MY WORD! You would have the perfect church, but no sinner would dare approach it for fear of condemnation by the Thought Police who would clearly be running the place.

Other than those few observations I am broadly in agreement with most of your 50 tenets.

Regards Chris.
Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet.4:8b.

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rdrcofe: Nov 10, 2017, 9:36 AM

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